Wildcrafting and shopping for herbs are two of my favorite activities. When using herbs to make medicine, you want to use the highest quality herbs you can find. Old, worn out herbs or ones that haven’t been properly stored will have much less potency than properly-dried and stored herbs.
It makes no sense to take the time to craft medicines that may not work, so it’s essential that you start with the best quality herbs.
Basically, there are two options for acquiring herbs, and each of those has two “sub-options,” if you will. Any of the four methods works, and you’ll probably use a combination of them.
Harvesting Herbs Yourself
Depending on the herb you need, you may be able to responsibly wildcraft it or grow it in your garden.
The word wildcrafting simply means finding medicinal plants growing in nature and collecting them. It’s a pastime I’ve fallen in love with!
Some medicinal herbs are abundant nearly everywhere – like our friend dandelion – while others are more difficult to find or identify. Some easy herbs to wildcraft are:
- Yellow Dock
- Self heal
You may have all five of these growing in your yard right now!
On the other hand, some medicinal plants at at-risk and should not be wildcrafted. These plants have been over harvested in their natural habitats to the extent that they’re in danger of becoming extinct in the wild.
The United Plant Savers keeps an updated list of at-risk plants. The current list includes:
- American Ginseng
- Black Cohosh
Many herbs will grow happily in your garden or in pots on your windowsill. We’re currently growing basil, lavender, sage, and oregano in small pots in the house.
You probably associate most of those more with culinary use, but they have medicinal uses too. (And when you use them to season dishes, you’re getting the culinary and medicinal benefits!)
Each summer, I grow comfrey and calendula outside, and this year I’ve planted black cohosh in the backyard for the first time too.
I don’t have a very green thumb … I tend to kill most of our houseplants, and I’ve never managed to have a fully successful vegetable garden, despite my years of trying … but herbs tend to be more forgiving. It’s like they hold onto some of their wild, independent nature even when we plant them in pots and keep them indoors. For that, I am thankful!
My favorite source for organic seeds is Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.
When an herb isn’t available to wildcraft and you haven’t yet grown it yourself, you’ll need to buy it from a reputable source. Not all herbal dealers are selling the best quality!
If you have a health or natural food store in your area, check out their selection of loose herbs. Be a connoisseur – smell the herbs, look at them closely, even taste them if the staff doesn’t mind. Ask yourself these questions:
Are the herbs stored out of direct sunlight?
Sunlight deteriorates dried herbs, robbing them of their medicinal potency.
Are the containers airtight?
Once dried, herbs need to be kept in airtight containers as much as possible. Exposure to air is as damaging as exposure to sunlight.
Are these herbs bright with vibrant colors that resemble the fresh plants?
Dull, brown, or gray herbs may have been exposed to excess heat during drying or may be very old. Either way, their medicinal qualities have been zapped.
Do the herbs smell fragrant?
If there is no or very little aroma to the herbs, they’re likely too old to be of use medicinally.
How do the herbs taste?
If you can taste test the herbs, do they have strong flavors? If the flavor is gone, so is the potency.
Talk to the staff or owner also and ask where the herbs came from. Were they wildcrafted? Or were they organically cultivated? How long ago were they harvested?
When quality herbs aren’t available to buy locally, it’s time to turn to mail order companies. Thankfully, there are several good ones. I’ve purchased organic herbs from these companies and have been very happy with them.
You can purchase bulk herbs on Amazon too, but I’ve been disappointed by some of the brands I’ve purchased from there. One company in particular doesn’t sift their herbs, which means that the bottom of the bag is filled with chaff – unusable debris. That’s not what I’m paying for!
I’ve been consistently satisfied with the herbs I’ve purchased from the three companies I listed, though. If you decide to go with any of them, I know you won’t be disappointed.
Use Organic Herbs
No matter where you end up obtaining them, use only organic herbs. The entire point of making herbal medicines is to avoid synthetic chemicals in conventional pharmaceuticals. Don’t invite poisons into your body by making your medicine from herbs that were treated with pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers.
In the age of the internet, access to high quality organic herbs is smooth and easy for anyone. Just be careful – once you start buying them, you won’t be able to stop! 🙂
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This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.
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